Reviews

Product Review: That Baby CD/DVD
5.2.2008

This review is brought to you by mamagigi and MotherTalk.

 

I was uber-excited to receive my review copy of “That Baby CD” and “That Baby DVD.”

 

 

Like … Could. Not Wait.

Teased by the prospect of “acoustic cover versions of songs made popular by artists like Fleetwood Mac, Neil Diamond, The Pretenders, Joni MItchell and others. This is music the whole family can enjoy,” I worked to keep my expectations at a reasonable level and tried not to look too excited when I ripped open the packaging.

The earthy gold and tan sleeves boast brown and orange swirls with a cool vintage vibe — kids with guitars on the front beckon an audience to come inside.

To my surprise, when I pulled the CD out of its case, I was delighted to see the vintage vibe continued — this isn’t a shiny silver disc we’re talking about, the darn thing is Black! With grooves! It look just like a record, folks! Ah, yes, clever advertising gimmick indeed, but, hey, it worked for me. (Just when, by the way did I grow old enough that I’d refer to music from my teenhood as vintage? Eek.) Seriously cute. Still, as I’m apt to teach my child, it’s not all about appearances, right?  Right. Moving on.

So. Here we go. Let’s tackle the DVD first. I’ll jump right in.

Alas, it aint for me. Or my kiddo.

Perhaps she’s just too old for it — she’s two and a half, closer to three. But the imagery reminded me more of something you would put on for a baby — if, in fact, you’d put the television on for a baby. The songs with animated graphics slowly rolling over the photos did nothing for me. Or my daughter.

At her age, she wants to dance and jump and engage with her music. Her interest waned during songs with this type of imagery and I tried to keep her focused with me.

And that was easier to do whenever a song came on that showed the kids rocking out. They danced and sang, moved and grooved, and that was cool. “Brass in Pocket”? With kids actually lip-synching it? A riot. It was awesome.

Now, my husband is a major Natalie Merchant fan — oh, wait, is that considered uncool, for a guy? If so, then pretend I never said it. Anyway, since Natalie (Yes, we’re on a first-name basis. Whatabouddit?) has fans, er, fan, in our household, I was especially psyched for that song. So we I waited. And waited. And then the DVD was wrapping up and I thought there must be some mistake. Until the credits started rolling and a less-than-stellar version came on. For the credits. Yet, it’s got its own number on the DVD listing. I don’t really think the background music for credits shoujld count as a featured song. But ya know, who am I but a lowly blogger?

Starting the DVD with “Happiness Runs,” by the way, was splendiferous. I happen to love the song, and it’s very upbeat and brings the energy right Into focus. Unfortunately, the DVD doesn’t deliver that same energy in a consistent manner. Not consistent enough anyway to keep young wandering minds from being attracted to noises on the other side of the room, shiny bright things in her view, or loud sneezes by mom. (And yes, there are things entertaining enough to do that for her.)

The CD, however, is another story. Without the accompanying images being decided for me, I was able to enjoy the music rather than see what I felt wasn’t working. And enjoy parts of it, I did. Since bringing the CD into our car, I think I’ve heard — and this is just an guesstimate — ooooh, I’d say Springsteen’s Pony Boy about 1,374 times.

Yep. My girl loooooves her a Pony Boy. (This song’s imagery in the DVD was actually sweet, a play on sillhouettes — shadowed parental figures moving about the green grass and sidewalk, children blowing bubbles, dancing and jumping on hills.)

Here’s the playlist: Happiness Runs/Circle Game, Sunday Sun, When We Grow Up, Pony Boy, Brass in Pocket, Get Together, Garden Song, Anything is Possible, Songbird, These are the Days, Three Little Birds, I Will and St. Judy’s Comet.

The CD does ultimately deliver my husband, er, me, the Natalie Merchant fix we were looking for in the DVD.

But this version of Bob Marley’s Three Little Birds — my daughter is a huuuuge fan of the song — sounds like a very distant cousin to the original. In fact, Maeve doesn’t seem to even connect this version to the one she loves and requests several times a week.

So from me, on this one, the review is mixed. I wouldn’t recommend the DVD for children older than a year or so. But the CD? That’s another story. Throw it in the car, play it in the house, your kiddo likely will find some favorites. Mine loves the fast-paced pieces, so it means I periodically skip a song as she requests the next one on the playlist from her perch in the backseat.

And I’ve been known to let it continue to play while I drive on from her preschool to my office.

And, seriously, not to harp on this — because I know, I know, looks aren’t everything — but I’m betting you’ll dig the old-school-record-look to the CD. I really do. Of course, it’s lost on Maeve, but it makes this mama happy. And ultimately, that’s what I think husband and wife team Rob and Lisi Wolf pf OyBaby had in mind when they created this set. Making both child and parent musically happy.

A lofty goal, indeed. One they both hit … and miss.

Of course, this is just one mama and her babe’s take on it. Your best bet is to have a listen for yourself.

But Wait! There’s More! If you do decide to make a purchase — the CD retails for $14.95; the DVD $24.95 — use coupon code MOTHERTALK for 20 percent off your total when shopping here. Cool, eh? I like me a discount. And, not for nothing, but when you do enter that code on orders before May 18, you also are automatically entered into a drawing for a brand-new iPod Nano.

(Nice contest tip from mamagigi, eh? Tell ya what — if you win, I won’t even make you share it with me. But be my best friend and loyal reader forever? Um, yeah. Probably.)

And here’s a very cool thing about this company: They actually will replace your disc for free if it gets scratched or even, as they say, “smeared with peanut butter.”

That’s a riot. Clearly, these folks are parents, too.

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Product Review: Kellogg’s Frosted Flakes Gold
4.28.2008

 

This review is brought to you by mamagigi and MomCentral.

I have to be honest.

I’ve never liked flake cereal. Corn flakes, flakes with nuggets of granola, heck — put a box of flakes with nuggets of actual 24K gold on the grocery shelf and I’d still likely push my shopping cart right by. I sheepishly admit I’ve always been a sucker for the cereal on the market’s lower shelves. You know, the brightly colored ones aimed at kids who then relentlessly beg their folks to buy it. (Hey — I am barely 5 feet tall, ya know. They’re what I see first.)

Little bits of cereal shaped like cookies (ummmm, you had me at “cookie”), little balls or bits or stars or moons of brightly colored, heavily sugared treats disguised as ceareal: now that’s the way to start my day. That’s always been my style.

Thing is, I know better. And when I became a mom I knew my days of pouring milk over sugary shapes were numbered. I mean, I could take me eating it, but my children? Not a chance. (Yes, I see the irony and backward-thinking.)

Now that my daughter has grown from the baby stages of mush and can eat a bowl of actual cereal with the best of ’em (although she still prefers her milk in a glass next to the cereal, not on it) it’s time for me to look at cereal with a whole new, ahem, grown-up eye. An eye toward nutrition and balance and health, and all those things our mothers and grandmothers talked about.

The thing is, ya can’t take the “but it should still taste delish” outta this girl.

So when my box of Kellog’s Frosted Flakes Gold arrived at my doorstep recently from the folks at MomCentral, I admit the expectations of my taste-o-meter were dialed a bit low. Even with the mention of “Gold.”

After all, the cereal is made with fiber and boasts 10 grams of whole grain. I was hanging all my hope on the fact it’s baked with honey.

I happened to have houseguests the week the cereal arrived. So the taste-testers included three adults and two children — my two and a half year old daughter and her 7-year-old cousin. I immediately expected my nephew to look right past Tony the Tiger (sorry, Tony) and look for something brighter, sweeter, something he’d probably come to expect in my pantry.

I was wrong — on multiple levels. He had a bowl for breakfast at least twice during his visit. My daughter loved — seriously, loved — it, too.  Now, she didn’t have milk on it — as per her usual breakfast cereal ritual — but she ate every flake in the bowl.

Watching the kids eat it up, I took a small handful from the box. I was not disappointed. And that’s saying a lot from this one-track-cereal mind. As my husband, my sister and I sat around the breakfast table — the kids had long left to go play — we each sampled and talked, sampled and talked. About 15 minutes later I realized I was still, um, sampling.

Super crunchy with plenty of sweet taste, these Frosted Flakes changed my view of healthy cereal. No mush, no bland tasteless bits of fibery fluff. Frankly, these were even different tasting than the Frosted Flakes of my childhood. No white sugary coatings or dry brittly crunch, these darned things are good

And the honey-sweet crunch tastes even sweeter knowing it’s packed with powerful whole grains and fiber.  Something I can serve to my daughter and actually enjoy eating alongside her.

I guess this means my days of hiding from my daughter during breakfast closet-eating mini-cookies as cereal are over.

As an aside, Kellogg’s Frosted Flakes Gold has paired with the American Youth Soccer Organization, Little League International and Girls on the Run International to create the “Five Golden Rules of Sportsmanship” as part of Kellogg’s “Earn Your Stripes” program, which helps kids build confidence as they face challenges and accomplishments in athletics.

The short-version of the Five Golden Rules are:

1) Play with a smile.

2) Be a winner (and this isn’t necessarily correlating to the scoreboard).

3) Show respect.

4) Be a good teammate.

5) Find good in the game.

All great lessons for life, I say. Lessons — and cereal — I am happy to share with my daughter.

For more information on Frosted Flakes Gold, head on over here.

Product Review: Keebler Toll House FlipSides
4.18.2008

This review is brought to you by mamagigi and Mom Central.

 

Hankering for some cheese? A pretzel? Salt fix? Cracker?

Well, then, you’re in luck.

All those fun-filled commercials on the Box with Pictures of late has snackin’ people crunching on a cracker-turned-pretzel or a pretzel-turned-cracker combo and loving it, in fact, even listing ways to eat it. Brought to hungry snackers by Keebler Toll House, the new “FlipSides” pretzel cracker comes in two flavors, original and cheddar — and this review is based on the cheddar flavor I received, tested and shared with myriad folks in my everyday world so as to craft for you, dear readers and your snacking children, a snacky review as part of my affiliation with Mom Central.

So, let’s get on with it, shan’t we?

I shared the FlipSides with my husband and toddler daughter, her classmates and teachers at daycare, and with my co-workers at the newspaper.

My daughter Maeve liked them, but I admit she did not ask for more the same adamant way she would a certain fish-shaped snack. Then again, I’m not so sure she knew there were more to have, as my husband took the box and before I could finish snarking: “Geeez! Please don’t eat them aaaallll !” I immediately began to plot where I’d be hiding the stash from him.

But in the interest of being clear (and not just witty!), The Husband LOVED The Pretzel Cracker.

The reviews from the other adults in my life ranged from love and simultaneous fear of finding them in the grocery store because they’d eat them all in one sitting … to one taster who will not be a FlipSide consumer anytime soon as she described them as “dry and tasteless.”

The children in my daughter’s class — they are 2 and early 3 year olds — ate them as part of snack this week and the teacher’s feedback on that was positive.  In fact, she liked them, too — and given that she’s a mom of four young ones — I’m thinking her kids might see these at snacktime in the near future.

So, what’s a reviewer to do when all her subjects are so split on the Ever-Important Tastiness Factor?

In addition to bringing you all sides of the feedback — by the way, some great constructive comments included a male who loved the snack, would absolutely buy it, but recommended a “tad bit less salt” and a female who liked that they “had more crunch than a cracker but are not as dry as a pretzel” — I also, of course, ate them myself.

It’s an interesting mix — both the cracker and the pretzel flavors were easily identifiable. As I said, the box I received was the cheddar flavor but I admit I didn’t actually taste much cheese. Now, if you’re solely expecting a cracker, then undoubtedly you’ll find these a bit crispy. Thing is, they’re also a pretzel and I ask you, what’s a pretzel if not crispy?

I personally liked the amount of salt and the overall crispyness. (I’m also the person who licks their finger and dips it into the otherwise empty pretzel bag hoping to score a salt fix.) I can honestly say I wouldn’t pass FlipSides by at a party — because I go to so many of those these days, by the way — but with a caveat: as a dipper. I envision these as being the vehicle for some condiment goodness. They’re definitely strong enough to hold myriad dips and in fact, the side of the box actually shows several topping options. But as an eat ’em straight from the box while hunkered down during my favorite television show? Not so much. They need a topper to score my unadulterated liking.

Still, though, I give Keebler props for managing to combine two distinct flavors while simultaneously being able to taste both individually — and given the amount of snackers that might revel in the notion of combined tastes (chocolate into peanut butter, for example) I think these might find themeselves into a bowl on the coffee table during Some Big Sports Event (things of which I know so very little).

Bottom line? It would seem to me the target market is large as both pretzels and crackers are, in fact, two distinct snacks — with two distinct fans, I’d argue — yet neither have strong spicy or sweet or unusual flavors that might turn off the less-adventurous folks. And since everyone (and by that I mean definitely me and that I’m hoping I’m not the only one) has a dip they totally love , I think the Flipsides are perfect for pairing.

And as for children, the not-so-extraordinarily strong flavors mean easier snack-a-bility in getting the kiddos to indulge. The pretzel crackers travel well, too. I threw about 20 into a ziplock in my purse (also known as a bottomless and dangerous pit) for a couple days this week as the go-to item for when I had a hungry daughter on my hands and we weren’t going to be home for a while. Score!

As my two and a half-year-old says, with her hand up to hear ear: “I’m crunching, mommy! Do you hear my crunch?”

I respond: “Yes, honey. I hear the crunch! Your belly is happy!” (She smiles and I’m able to get things done in the store without ruining her dinner or getting her hopped up on sugary nothingness — Score again!)

To check out the specifics on the FlipSides, head here.

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Book Review: Daring Book for Girls
11.27.2007

This review is part of my participation in MotherTalk.

daringbookcover.jpg

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

When I was in college, I managed a small independent children’s bookstore. From storytime under the big in-store elm tree to choosing from the myriad books, puzzles and realistic animal and bug puppets, children entering our shop were encouraged to discover the wonder and adventure in reading.

One afternoon, like most, a mother and young child sat in a cozy corner reading from a small stack of books. As I went about my work, I took delight in the ebb and flow of their voices and his determined page-turning. That is, until it came to a screeching halt when the little boy — about three years old — began to shriek in protest: “No mommy! That’s a girl book! I’m not reading that!”

It was then I realized just how young children are when they learn the unfortunate pinks and blues, dolls and trucks mindset in “traditional” gender roles. I promised myself any daughter of mine would also have a truck and handle a fishing pole, and any son would have a doll and help bake a cookie or two in the kitchen. (Ya know, alongside daddy’s apron strings. Me not being a fan of the kitchen and all.)

I also was careful in future dealings with customers not to become mired in that narrow gender-role mindset; I’d show all children all different kinds of books, sharing all sorts of adventures with all sorts of readers.

Given this, one can imagine I’m not wont to pull from the shelves a book seemingly written for one gender or another. No thank you. I don’t need a bookcover or author telling me I’m an acceptable reader simply because I’ve got breasts.

Ah. But there’s now an exception to this rule of mine.

When the recently released The Daring Book for Girls by Andrea J. Buchanan and Miriam Peskowitz landed on my doorstep, thanks to MotherTalk and publisher Harper Collins, I found myself in the uncomfortable position of being simultaneously intrigued and cautious.

But wait. Mamagigi’s getting ahead of herself. First, another personal story. (Yes, it relates. I promise. Yeesh.)

One spring, as a child, my parents bought a large, playground-grade swingset from my elementary school for our own backyard. Seems the school was planning an upgrade and held an auction to make room for new play equipment.

Now, this swingset was special. It was like no other in my little slice of suburbia. It was red. Cherry red. And big. Very big. It seemed to be crafted soley for the purpose of swinging higher than all the other shamed denizens of Swingset-land. This awe-inspiring swingset sat ready, its long A-frame legs and strong chains tempting us — and all the neighborhood kids — to hop on and give it a spin. You know, if you dared.

To put it simply, my sister and I were thrilled.

But alas. It wasn’t meant to be.

Just days after its arrival into our very own backyard, a tornado blew through my Midwestern town and twisted the beloved new plaything into a big, depressing, cherry-red pretzel.

We moped for days, wallowing in our misery and the unbelievable unfairness of it all. Suddenly, the once-promising summer shined less bright, and each day lingered longer than the one before it. This is what happens, don’tchyaknow, when one’s innocent childhood daydreams are squashed and all that remains is disappointment, frustration and — gasp! — boredom.

This continued at a painful pace until, well, until the day our mother had heard enough.

Without explanation or invitation, she simply marched into the backyard and began to climb a big old tree that had been uprooted during the tornado and landed in our backyard. A tree that for us, had only been further reminder of the Tornado That Ruined Our Life.

While our parents’ gift of super-sized, ready-made swingset fun was just a short-lived reality, that afternoon mom presented us with a much greater gift: a jumpstart of our imaginations. She was daring us to embrace an unexpected opportunity that had landed — quite literally — in our own backyard.

The Daring Book for Girls reminds me of that day. It beckons young girls to extract the iPod earbuds from their ears, close their cell phones and embrace creativity and the important role it deserves in one’s childhood.

From its unique Tiffany blue hue and silvery glitter stylings to its heftiness as a hardcover chock-full of information, stories and tips meant to empower today’s young girls, Daring offers so much more than tired and shallow tips about blotting lipstick, walking gracefully in heels and batting eyelashes at bad boys. And this non-traditional take on activities for girls is a treat, indeed.

Its vintage feel doesn’t hurt either, with marbleized inside covers and old-fashioned fonts, parents of potential young readers can’t help but feel transported to the simpler time of their own childhood. Or the childhood they wish they’d had.

Although one could argue this packaging forces the fond feelings of yesteryear, the fact is if the book’s contents didn’t live up to its packaging, moms like me would simply place it right back onto the shelf and walk away.

But that’s not a problem for Daring — it delivers.

Readers can flip to any page and learn something they didn’t know. Or, just as delightful, relish in recollections of past adventures. There’s no need to carve out hours for reading this book, either. Each page or two offers a new activity, a new tidbit of cultural information or just-for-the-fun-of-it facts. From sports (something I admit the tweeny me would have skipped right over had this book existed then) and history (our daughters should learn about all sorts of daring women that came before them, yes?) to crafts (like making your very own sit-upon — oh, how I wish I still had mine, with its now-dated greenish-brown and ivory gingham checks and long ivory plastic waiststrings) to clever tricks and tips meant to entertain, there’s little room here for boredom.

Gather your daughter. Tell her to gather her friends. Heck, gather your friends. There are good times to be had and memories to be made.

This book will have a place in my daughter’s collection. And although she’s too young now to take full advantage, I’m not. It’s also a useful tool for me, in my role as her mom, to help keep her days full of learning, adventure and creative play — the simple charms of childhood.

So for me, its purpose is two-fold: In addition to being a guidepost for my own mother-daughter adventures to come, it’s a sweet reminder of my own years as a child when the most important thing I had to worry about was what crayons to use on the sign for my lemonade stand.

That day following the tornado, when I dusted off my imagination — thanks to a not-so-subtle dare by my own creative mother — is one of several memories I hold dear. Like dancing with her in warm summer rain showers.

Or later, sitting with friends, knotting shoelaces onto sticks and dangling them above murky rain puddles. Just us girls, fishing poles in hand, chatting it up and waiting for rainfish to bite.

This book is a must-have — for us and our daring daughters.

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